Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks

I've enjoyed this arrangement on my kitchen table during the last couple of months.  The two pumpkins sit within a pumpkin bowl along with a bunch of fruit, nuts and silk leaves.  It's a simple bit of Autumn that seems to capture the idea of a bountiful harvest.  I am so thankful to God for the bounty He has blessed us with.  I praise God from whom all blessings flow.

It is not by my might or my power or any talent I may possess that I am what I am and that I have what I have.  Everything -- indeed, every breath I take -- is a gift from God.  Oh, that we might be full of praise and thanksgiving, not only on November 28, but each and every day of our lives.

The Apostle Paul says that we are to give thanks in all things -- not only in the good times, but also in difficult times.  It's really hard when you feel like you're at the bottom of the barrel, to look up and give thanks, but if you do, it will brighten your spirit and bring glory to our gracious God.  Giving thanks also reminds us that it is not we ourselves, but the grace of God that has saved us and kept us until the day we join Him in glory.

On this special day of Thanksgiving, let's not forget to thank God for His amazing gift of salvation and eternal life in paradise that He has promised to us.  But until that day, let's rejoice in the Lord and enjoy this beautiful world and all the wonders that are in it -- a world He created for us.  Blessed be the name of the Lord!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Grow Where Planted

I took this photo during a brief stop in Williamston, North Carolina.  It looks like a hillside covered with moss, but it's actually the rooftop of an old house -- covered in moss with trees and plants growing and old limbs and leaves littering its surface.  I always think its strange when I see plants growing on rooftops and walls.

When I saw this, I thought -- hey, we're all suppose to grow wherever we're planted, even if it might not be the most convenient place to put down roots.  There are people all over this world living in every kind of condition you can imagine.  Christians are being persecuted, dispossessed and far worse on a regular basis in many countries.  This is nothing new -- it's been happening since Christianity began and will, no doubt, continue until the Lord takes us all home.

Regardless of its place of residence, the green moss covering this roof is, I think, pretty.  It's soft, lush-looking and a nice shade of green.  Nonetheless, it's probably not the best place for a plant to grow and prosper, but those little plants are persistently hanging in there and holding their own.

There is actually a verse in 2 Kings 19:26 that speaks of plants growing on a roof:  "Their people, drained of power, are dismayed and put to shame.  They are like plants in the field, like tender green shoots, like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched before it grows up."  While this verse speaks of the grass scorching from the sun and withering away, the moss and plants on some roofs manage to keep on keeping on.  I wonder what the difference might be?

Statistics tell us that 75% of religious persecution these days is against followers of Jesus.  Christians are being persecuted, dispossessed and even killed in many countries in our world today.  This is a sad state of affairs, but it is not too different than many other times in history.  Satan is ever seeking to stir the pot against followers of our Lord.  Rome was responsible for the deaths of countless Christians during the years following the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.  And so it will ever be -- until His return.

So, how to endure when you're clinging to life on top of a roof?  There's no simple and easy answer, but the truth of scripture can help.  Peter wrote to the Christians during one of those dangerous times in history, saying:  "Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness...but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be glory both now and forever!  Amen" 2 Peter 1:2-3.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Giant's Causeway

This strange looking rock formation is found along the North Channel on the Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland.  It's called the Giant's Causeway because legend has it that it is the remains of a causeway built long ago by an Irish giant named Finn MacCool.  Another equally fictitious belief is that the rocks are several millions of years old. 

It is believed (and this is probably true) that ancient volcanic eruptions caused about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns to form from cooling lava flows.  The tallest of the columns is 39 feet high.  It's fascinating to see that each column is a uniform hexagonal shape.  As you can see from the photo, it looks as if someone has cut each column and placed them in perfect rows along the edge of the sea.  And indeed -- someone did do that -- our amazing God, the Creator of everything.

God is certainly full of surprises throughout this world He created!  The more I see of the world around me, the more in awe and delight I am of my gracious, inventive, almighty Father who loves beauty, variety and all manner of amazing things.  He even sent dainty, blooming flowers to grow in the crevices of these hard rocks for a bit of softness and color -- how lovely!

Thank you, O Lord, for giving us yet another unique spot on this earth to marvel at your power and love of variety.  This must be one of the most unusual collection of stepping stones on the planet!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Giant Fruit

Okay, so this giant ice cream cone is not actually "fruit," but there is a giant cherry on top and strawberries are probably in the pink ice cream, so technically, it counts as fruit!  This big treat can be found in the picturesque town of Grand Lake, Colorado.

There are many ways we can look at fruit and make applications to our Christian lives.  My point here is that it's not the size or the amount of the fruit that's important.  We could ask, is a watermelon or a blueberry showing better evidence of God's glory and workmanship?  One is large and one is small, but each is what God created it to be. 

It's not the size of the ministry or the number of lives you touch that signifies if you are being fruitful or not -- it's what you are called to do by God.  Let me compare two very different women:  one is Beth Moore, who has written numbers of books and studies, and travels all over the world sharing the word of God with hundreds of thousands of people.  She has a wide-ranging influence and is a blessing to many (including me).

Then, there is my mother Eleanor Julian, who was nearly 94 years old when she died last December.  Before she broke her hip, she regularly went out and visited shut-ins (even at the age of 90!), took flowers and vegetables from her garden to people, sent cards of encouragement, and prayed daily for others needs.  She had a much smaller range of influence, quiet and low-key, but she was faithful and touched the lives of people for Christ (including me).

Which of these women would be considered more fruitful in the kingdom of God?  It's not how much we do for Christ, but how faithful we are with what He has given us.  Like the servants in the Parable of the Talents, the one who earned five talents was just as highly praised as the one who earned ten talents.  Both were rewarded with the words of the Master, "Well done my good and faithful servant..."

God asks one thing from us -- to grow and be fruitful in the field in which He has placed us.  In Colossians, Paul writes, "And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God" 1:10.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Heavy Load

How would you like to carry this heavy load of "stuff" around with you all the time?  Whew!  I think it would be exhausting!  The thing is, many of us carry "stuff" around with us everyday and it gets so heavy and becomes such a burden.  What would your life look like if you just let it go?

Every person has a different journey experience in this life and I daresay that everyone carries at least some baggage in life, some far more than others.  Some folks carry as much baggage as you see in this photo -- these are burdens that we were not meant to have to carry around with us all the time.

So, what is the baggage that weighs us down?  A list of some things that can be termed burdens or baggage might be:  fear, anger/temper, addiction, insecurity, low self-esteem, bitterness, unforgiveness, sorrow, worry -- do any of these ring a bell for you?  What baggage are you carrying around with you on a daily basis?

Here's what Jesus says to us, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" Matthew 11:28.

There's a song by Dana Maclean aptly called, "Suitcase Song," and it has such a relevant message.  Here are a few of the stanzas:

How can you move when they're weighing you down?
What can you do when you're tied to the ground?
You carry your burdens, heavy like gravity
Just let them go now, there's freedom in release.
You can't run when you're holding suitcases;
It's a new day throw away your mistakes and open up your heart
Lay down your guard, you don't have to be afraid.
Just breathe, your load can be lifted
There's a better way when you know you're forgiven
Open up your heart, lay down your guard
You don't have to be afraid.

We can live with freedom and joy when we get out from under the load of baggage in our lives.  Jesus says, "My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" John 14:27.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ravens in God's Plan

Bronze sculpture in the Raven Series by Jim Eppler, Loveland, Colorado
When we visited Norm & Winnie Wakefield in Loveland, we walked through the delightful scupture park they have in their town.  Norm pretended to swat at the ravens perched atop the archway over the sidewalk, but they didn't budge.  In the second shot, you can see the detail of a raven with a kernal of something, perhaps corn, in its beak.
This reminds me of the story in 1 Kings 17 about God using ravens to feed His prophet Elijah during a time of drought and danger in the land of Israel.  In the story, Elijah had just obeyed God by telling King Ahab that "As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word" 17:1.
After that pronouncement, God told Elijah to leave and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan.  There was good reason that it was wise to hide.  The Canaanite people believed that their god Baal was the only one who could govern the dew and the rain, and so this was a direct challenge to them.  Also, as time passed and the land dried up, people became angry at Elijah, blaming him for what was happening to them, when it was their own sin which had percipitated this judgment in the first place.
And so, for a period of time (probably a number of months since he stayed there until the brook dried up), Elijah lived peacefully in the ravine God had chosen for him.  The miracle that delights me most in that situation is the way God supplied his faithful servant's needs.  First of all, there was a brook with clean, clear water running through the valley, and more impressive to me are the ravens that brought food to Elijah.  Here's what God told Elijah:  "You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there" v. 4.  Verse 6 tells us, "The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening..."
I just love the way God is in control of every minute detail of His creation.  Speaking of birds, I'm also reminded of one of my favorite verses in Isaiah 46:9-11 where God says, "I am God, and there is none like me...My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.  From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.  What I have said, that will I bring about..."
In this verse, God speaks of His ability to summon a bird of prey to do His bidding, much like He summoned the group of ravens to do His bidding and feed His servant Elijah.  The bottom line is - God can and will supply our needs.  Just as Jesus said when He was on earth, " not worry about your ife, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear...Consider the ravens; they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them.  And how much more valuable you are than birds!"  Luke 12:22-24.

Just as God supplied Elijah with what he needed and as he continues to supply the ravens with what they need, He has promised to supply the needs of His children.  What a blessing to belong to the One who is in control of every bird, beast and being -- and all of creation.  Thank you, Lord, for taking care of us.